Stuart Broad said England could leave the World T20 with their "heads high" despite going out of the competition after their second defeat in three games. Broad admitted to the wearying effects of a long and arduous winter of touring but was looking forward to the opportunity for rest and recovery before England begin a "new era" in May.
England lost by three runs to South Africa, ending their chances of reaching the semi-finals. A young and slightly experimental squad will play one more game, against Netherlands on Monday, before heading home as the ECB prepares to appoint a new head coach. Broad said he was uncertain about his own future as T20 captain and may miss the start of England's season as he attempts to get over a chronic knee injury.
"We've had a lot of positives come out of this World Cup but we can hold our heads high with some of the performances we've put in," Broad said. "If we had got out of the group there would have been a lot of surprised people. We're disappointed but we've done some good stuff with the squad available to us.
"We lost key men through injury. We can hold heads up high and at the end of the day T20 is an entertainment business and I don't think anybody is going to leave the ground today disappointed with nearly 400 runs scored, sixes, fours, and catches."
The county season gets underway next weekend, with the chance for several players to push for recognition as England look to begin afresh after losing heavily in Australia and following up with mixed results in the Caribbean and Bangladesh. Ashley Giles, the limited-overs coach, is favourite to succeed Andy Flower in charge of England across all three formats, with the ECB expected to hold interviews for the position in early April.
"It's going to be a new era of English cricket isn't it?" Broad said. "It has been a tough winter. We've been away a huge amount of time so there are some fantastic opportunities available for players in the summer. We don't know the shake-up of the Test side but you know the opportunities will arise and that's exciting for players to be involved in. I expect to see some excellent performances this summer, guys really desperate to play, hungry to succeed for England and we'll have to play some good cricket to beat Sri Lanka and India.
"It's an exciting time to be part of English cricket. Change is exciting from time to time. It's been a really tough winter, we've not had a huge amount of success. Australia was a really tough tour, back-to-back Ashes over the past nine months is as tough as it gets for a cricketer, not just on the field but off it too with all the hype that comes with Ashes cricket. So it has been a draining winter and I'll have to be honest, I'm looking forward to a bit of a break come Tuesday."
Broad has been T20 captain since 2011, when England experimented with a tripartite system. He has twice led England at the World T20, both times on the subcontinent, with the next tournament due to be held in India in 2016. Asked about continuing in the role, he said: "I don't know, there's going to be a decision made on coaching staff so there might be a few changes in the next two months or so. I'm probably going to be unavailable for the start of the season in one-day cricket to sort my knee out."
A period of rehabilitation will be required for Broad to get over his patellar tendonitis, an injury that has resulted from his heavy workload over the winter, and discussions with whoever is appointed to take charge of England will determine the way forward. England begin their season with an ODI against Scotland on May 9, followed by limited-overs series against Sri Lanka. The first Test of the summer begins on June 12.
"I need a rehab period on my tendonitis, which is generally about an eight-week period so whether I take just four weeks in April to play in May and then take a couple of months after the season I don't know but it's got to the stage where it's really sore and I need it sorting out. You know in international cricket you can't perform at your best when you're carrying an injury. We've managed it pretty well but it's in the hands of the medical staff and a bit of negotiation with the head coach when that's decided."
England made 193 for 7 against South Africa, their joint fifth-highest score batting second in T20s, despite no one scoring more than 38. The total surpassed their record chase against Sri Lanka from two nights ago but England paid for conceding 55 runs from the last three overs, as AB de Villiers scorched his way to an unbeaten 69 off 28 balls. Broad credited de Villiers for a match-winning innings as the bowlers, particularly Jade Dernbach, again came in for punishment.
"We've come up three runs short and there's some pretty clear ways we could have stopped those three runs," Broad said. "We didn't particularly field well, but that can happen in these conditions. We didn't have the one guy going to get the Hales-like knock like he did the other day or 60 or 70 you realistically need in these sorts of chases.
"But sometimes you have to hold your hands up and that knock from AB de Villiers is as good as you'll ever see. He hits the ball 360 degrees and targeted the short boundary with fantastic success. We tried to go for yorkers but in these conditions it's unrealistic to get your yorkers consistent with a bar of soap. He took it away from us in those last few overs. If we'd been chasing 170 it would have been pretty gettable."